For Readers, Writing Advice

How to be a writer – a homage to Meg Rosoff

I’m a big fan of Meg Rosoff.  Her latest book, There is No Dog, is a quirky and irreverent look at our potential deity – though you may end up despairing of him, it all makes quite a lot of sense. And the wonderful  How I Live Now is, as I type, being made into a film.  She’s a damned fine writer, Meg Rosoff,  so when I read her latest blog: Everything You Need To Know To Be A Writer I was laughing with joy.

I’ve always thought of myself as the woman who was so nearly good at so many things and now, instead of feeling like a failure, I can smile and say, oh yes, in that goes to the experience bank – it’s research don’t you know.  So here, after a special request by the lovely and talented Karen Ball is my list of:

Things I’ve Done That Will Help Me Be a Better Writer.

I belly dance. I fence.  I can make a poor fourth hand at bridge.

Doing acting….

I know what it’s like to work on a film, in the theatre and on a farm.

I’ve worked on the deck of the Mary Rose and I’ve worked in  The Gambia. I’ve sucked green oranges with a group of village women in Njawara and got sick drinking tap water in Banjul.

I’ve had an African  prince to tea.

I’ve been on an anti fox hunting rally.  I’ve lobbied my MP and had a warning from a policeman for demonstrating outside the Houses of Parliament.  I’ve been a guest at the House of Lords.

At 17 my heart was broken. My first love left me for a beautiful boy called Mark, one of my best friends. I behaved quite badly after that until, at 19, I fell in love again and stayed that way.

I’ve had two stalkers, one more scary than the other.

I am sometimes too nice for my own good.

I spent a decade living in a caravan. I have been cold and hungry. I know what it’s like to risk losing everything you own to make a better life.

I’ve built a business. I’ve built a house. I’ve held down three jobs at once, one of which involved dressing up as an octopus.

I lost my mother in  Singapore and my camera by a hot spring in Borneo.  I got another mother and, less painfully, another camera.

I had one childbirth that, 50 years ago,  would have killed me and my daughter. When it was over, I had a bitch of a midwife who was cruel and  stupid. I had extensive repair surgery. The surgeon had hepatitis C.  I  had another child by c-section thus curing my terror of the whole process – then I had a haemorrhage in the school playground because I thought I was invincible when, in fact, I was an idiot.

I’ve paddled beside a manatee in Mexico;  ridden a horse in Cuba;  found a stash of petrol bombs in my flat in North Wales;  belly danced at one of The Earl of March’s infamous parties and toured a play to the south of France.

I’ve let down a friend who never forgave me.

I’ve been to a muddy Glastonbury Festival, a sunny Glastonbury Festival and I’ve seen Leonard Cohen through a haze of dope smoke. I’ve had an argument with a woman snorting cocaine over her child’s pram.

I  had a bare knuckle fight with the bane of my life at St. Luke’s Comprehensive School. I was molested on my paper round and never told a soul.

I’ve been in two tornadoes in the South of England and a violent storm in Sarawak.  I’ve rescued my daughter’s bag from a warthog and my son’s fingers from a monitor lizard.

I’ve nursed a sick hamster back to life, had my fingers sucked by a calf and said goodbye to countless beloved pets. I’ve twice removed a wild owl from my sitting room.

I’ve written a lot of words and I’m writing some more but these one’s are by kind permission of                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Meg :

All my life I despaired at being a jack of all trades and master of none, but it all proved fantastically useful when I started writing.

This is by way of saying that when I suggest people not be in a hurry to write a book, I mean it. Because the more you live, the more you’ll know — in your head and in your heart. And the more you know, the more your book will come from a deep place of real resonance — in other words, not wikipedia.

Reading Meg’s blog made me realise everything we do in life is important. It all adds up to who we are.

It all goes in to the stories we tell.  Even the stuff we failed at. Especially the stuff we failed at.

34 thoughts on “How to be a writer – a homage to Meg Rosoff”

  1. I love Meg’s post and I totally love yours too. We all have stories, weird and wonderful and fascinating and painful and thanks to that, we are able to write stories! Great post, lovely Kathy x

    1. No, am an accidental woman who’s had a lot of good fortune – though I didn’t always recognise it at the time. x

  2. Staggering. Absolutely staggering. A tear most definitely brimmed in my eye. I’ve been thinking about my own list. The challenges are a) my 42 years on this earth seem crashingly boring and b) the process of drafting a list leaves me feeling exposed and vulnerable. So kudos to Meg and yourself. Girlfriend, you can WRITE!

    1. Karen what a lovely comment x It’s a really cathartic thing to do, am so grateful to Meg for starting it off – and I bet yours isn’t boring – there’ll be stuff there, mark my words there’ll be stuff…

    1. It’s funny how you notice patterns in your writing after a while – a theme of loss seems to thread it’s way into everything …we are imprinted by our experiences – it’s inescapable…

  3. This is an amazing post, and Meg’s too of course. I’m going to have to give it a go. At the moment I’m feeling like I have a pretty long list of accomplishments but they’re all in a similar area, and all by the same fluke. I’ll have to think of some more interesting ones…

  4. Good grief, get and out write your autobiography now! How did you manage to do all that? I can only claim to have had tea with an African Prince and I kissed a policeman once. I have led such a sheltered life . . .

  5. Well well well, what a glorious trajectory your rocket has carved across the sky Kathryn! I don’t know anything at all about Meg Rosoff (she spoke at the SCBWI conference a while back didn’t she?), but for my money you’ll do. All those stories and experience – when’s the next bestseller out then?

    I know, using life experiences to inspire stories is not quite as straightforward as it may seem, but as they say, you can’t cook a meal without the ingredients, and you’ve enough spices to enrich any story!

    1. Thank you ! I can’t tell you what it meant to read your blog – it so summed up how I feel. And the fact you’ve made such a success of your journey is inspirational x

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